Jim and Heather Murphy didn’t plan to stay in Golden for very long, but 45 years later they are still here and don’t appear to be moving anytime soon.
While they both moved here the same year, they didn’t arrive together and didn’t even know each other at the time. Heather, who grew up in England, enjoyed an interesting childhood that would be the envy of most young children. Because her father was the curator of the reptiles and insects at the London Zoo, Heather and her family actually lived at the zoo in her early youth.
“It was [like a dream]…We had the freedom of the zoo after everybody left,” Heather said. “We used to go into the monkey house and take the monkeys out and things…Our house was actually surrounded by the gazelles and the hippopotamus was just next door near the giraffes…Those were our neighbours because that was the only house in the zoo.”
It wasn’t all perfect, however, as her father’s job did require some sacrifices to be made from the family.
“We never knew quite what was going to be in our bathtub. We had to check first, because there would be alligators and things that dad wanted to keep an eye on,” she laughed.
Through his job at the zoo, Heather’s father, Jack Lester, worked closely with David Attenborough, the well known broadcaster and naturalist who went on to narrate the BBC’s Planet Earth series of documentaries. To this day, Attenborough continues to credit Lester with helping him put his career on track.
Heather moved here with one of her sisters with two goals in mind.
“[We moved here] to ski, but secondarily to teach to make enough money to go skiing,” Heather said.
Heather got a job at Nicholson Elementary School and ended up teaching there over the course of about 40 years, although she took time off to raise the couple’s four children during that span.
Jim grew up in Kimberley and moved here while working for the forest service. He spent six years with the forest service before he moved on to a job at the Golden and District Hospital, where he worked in the financial department for 15 years.
“I was very talented,” Jim joked. “From the bush to the hospital.”
In 1988, Jim took over the ski school and shop at the Whitetooth Ski Area and in 1990 the couple bought Glacier Raft Company from family friends after several years of helping them with the business.
“It was fast and furious all summer,” Jim said about owning the raft company.
At the time, the rafting industry both in Golden and in Canada was still in its infancy, and most of the company’s guides were brought in from elsewhere.
“We met people from everywhere. We made a lot of good friends from around the world,” he said. “We always boasted that we had the best guides in the country.”
The ski school and the rafting company complimented each other nicely for Jim, but left him fairly busy all year round. Jim still found time to be involved in minor hockey as president and spent time as the chairman of the school board. His history in hockey goes back to his days at university in Nelson, where he earned a scholarship to play for Notre Dame University College. His team went undefeated for three years. Jim and his teammates didn’t have what most would consider a typical university experience.
“Playing hockey, we didn’t live the college life. We had to play hockey and get good marks. It was interesting,” he said.
The Canadian national ski team trained there at the time, and Jim had the opportunity to meet Canadian legend Nancy Greene.
The Murphys have taken plenty of trips together over the years, including a cross-Canada tour that took them all the way to Newfoundland and trips to Australia and England. They especially enjoyed Eastern Canada and the warmth hospitality of the people they met out there.
Their original aspirations to move to a different town turned into a life spent in Golden, and the Murphys hardly seem to regret the path their lives took. Three of their four children still live in town, and the couple now has 10 grandchildren altogether.
“We couldn’t want for a better place for children to grow up,” Heather said.
“We’ve had a really nice life here, a charmed life you might say. We’ve managed to live amongst some fine people here and some good friends,” Jim said.